On Saturday afternoon, President Barack Obama ended two days of campaigning across Virginia at Centreville High School, where he spoke about the need to renew the American middle class and the economy.
Central to his theme was his call to Congress to extend a Bush-era tax cut to families that make less than $250,000. Republicans want to see that cut applied to all, including families making more than $250,000. Obama has said previously that he would veto anything that includes tax cuts for all.
"What I’ve said is, look, middle-class families, folks who are making $250,000 or less, 98 percent of Americans, you shouldn’t see your taxes go up one dime," Obama said in a 37-minute speech that began at 4:14 p.m. "You don't need to. Your income taxes should stay constant. And I’ve said to Congress let’s go ahead and get that done now. Let’s give 98 percent of folks certainty right now."
'Your Kids Are Turning Out Outstanding'
While the president's message was primarily one for a national audience, there were still some local touches. Centreville's Rev. Jerry Foltz, the founding pastor of Wellspring United Church of Christ, led the opening prayer. Rep. Gerry Connolly, who represents the nearby 11th district, gave a speech before the event. Also present was Sen. Dave Marsden (D-37th district), and Kristin Cabral, who is vying to replace longtime incumbent Rep. Frank Wolf in the newly redrawn 10th district, which Centreville High is within.
The president also gave a shout-out to the students at the school and newly-installed Centreville High School principal Martin Grimm.
"I just talked to Martin and I asked him, how long you been principal? He said, 'five days,'" Obama said, to laughter from the audience. "So I said, good luck. I'm sure he is going to do a great job.
And I had a chance to meet some of the student body council here at Centreville, and they could not be more impressive. So, parents, you should know your kids are turning out outstanding. We are proud of them."
The area is important for Obama to win. Formerly considered a heavily red state, Virginia chose Obama in the last election. It was the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had won the state in 44 years, according to NPR’s “It’s All Politics” blog. Obama won Fairfax County in 2008, taking 60.11 percent of the vote or 310,359 votes to Sen. John McCain's 38.93 percent or 200,994 votes according to the Virginia Board of Elections.
Political observers now view it as a swing state, and both candidates are now vying hard for votes. In May, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney stopped at Exhibit Edge in Chantilly to talk about the economy and small business. The president arrived at CVHS on the second of two solid days of campaigning in Virginia.
Winning votes in Northern Virginia will be crucial. Romney has focused heavily during the campaign on the mediocre national economy. The relatively strong state of the local economy and the number of more liberal-leaning constituents in the area make it a harder sell in Northern Virginia.
The president's opponents were also active on Saturday. Volunteers with the Fairfax County Republican Committee spent the day knocking on doors, asking people to vote for Romney. A campaign bus for Romney was also parked near the school.
Before the event, Del. Tim Hugo (R-40th district), Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34th district) and Fairfax County Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) joined hundreds of protestors across the road. Many carried signs about the health care law and economy, such as "Hope Isn't Hiring."
"This is ground zero for Barack Obama's tax increase," said Comstock.
The area surrounding Centreville High, is home to ZIP code 20124, where about one in five taxpayers file returns of adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000. Of 7,046 tax returns filed in 2008, 1,435 were filed with adjusted gross incomes of more than $200,000, according to the latest records available from the IRS.
Judy Rosso, 49, of the Alexandria area, was among the people carrying signs. She said she heard about the rally through the Tea Party and decided to come because she is concerned about the government getting involved in healthcare.
"Does he really want the IRS monitoring not only our lives but our health?" Rosso said.
'That Basic Bargain'
But inside the school gymnasium—where fire officials estimated that 2,100 people packed in—Obama presented his vision as one that would further the American economy.
"If you're willing to meet your responsibilities to not only yourself and your family, but to your community and your country, you can enjoy the security of a middle-class life," Obama said. "It's that basic bargain that makes this country great. It's that basic bargain that built the economic superpower that we are today."
After his speech, Obama was swamped by camera-snapping supporters. He smiled and shook hands while Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own" blared from loudspeakers.
Mary Ann Barton contributed to this report.
Read more about today's visit here: